Rangers midseason grades: bottom-six forwards

When healthy, Derek Dorsett has been everything the Rangers hoped for

Like many parts of the 2013-2014 roster, the bottom-six forwards have struggled through long stretches of the season thus far.  Part of that can be attributed to players being used out of place and in unusual situations, but the team hasn’t gotten consistent play out of many of its depth forwards for most of the year.  That seems to be changing over the last few weeks, and has been as instrumental to the team’s mini turnaround as anything else.

Brian Boyle

Boyle will forever be a polarizing player amongst Ranger fans because he has hands of stone and doesn’t drive opponents through the boards with his massive size.  You can’t really judge Boyle fairly until you accept those two facts of life, which many refuse to do.  But Boyle is a very useful player in many other areas.  Though this hasn’t been his finest year, Boyle is still being relied on as the team’s top defensive forward, plays well on the penalty kill, is the best faceoff man on the team and drives possession.  He is guilty of being a passenger at times this season the same as nearly every player on the roster, but for the most part, Boyle has been use usual steady self.  Still, scoring just one goal all year is pretty hard to do.

Grade: B

Benoit Pouliot

Three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have hesitated to give Pouliot an F-.  Now, it’s hard to imagine the lineup without him.  Pouliot has been white-hot of late, with goals in four of his last five games and a seven-game point streak to boot.  His contributions on the offensive end have been a huge unexpected surprise in December, and Pouliot suddenly looks like a different player with his newfound confidence.  We all knew of Pouliot’s history of inconsistency when he arrived, and it’s very likely he’ll go through another horrible dry spell before the year is over.  But in the span of just a few weeks, his point total suddenly looks very respectable for a depth guy.  The biggest gripe I still have with Pouliot is that he’d been a very good possession player in the past – one of the best in the league, actually – and he hasn’t been good in that department for New York.

Grade: C+

Derek Dorsett

No, Dorsett isn’t Brandon Prust.  But he just might be better.  OK, so Dorsett might not be as good a fighter as Prust was, but who cares?  In every other aspect of the game, Dorsett has been Prust’s equal or better.  Injuries have hampered him at times, but Dorsett has still been the most consistent bottom-six forward all year and has chipped in virtually every way imaginable.  Dorsett has been one of the team’s best forwards on the forecheck, an ace penalty killer and an effective pest.  He’s come as billed – Dorsett wears his heart on his sleeve every night.  Though his point total doesn’t reflect it, I think Dorsett has the ability to put up decent offensive numbers as well, and we might see that in the second half.

Grade: A-

J.T. Miller

It would be hard for anyone to get into a rhythm when they’re driving back and forth from Connecticut every few days, but that’s the hand Miller has been dealt this year.  He’s in that tricky stage for a prospect where he’s way too good for the AHL, but still not quite good enough to make a consistent impact at the NHL level.  To Miller’s credit, he’s kept his head down and kept working at his game, and his latest stint on Broadway has been his best.  In an ideal world, I’d still like to see him spend the remainder of the season in Hartford, but the Rangers are obviously facing a ton of pressure to win now and think he’s a better option than, say, Taylor Pyatt.  I can’t grade Miller too harshly since I think he’s in over his head (through no fault of his own), but he hasn’t been lighting the world on fire.

Grade: B-

Taylor Pyatt

It’s frankly amazing that Pyatt actually played 22 games this year.  He’s clearly not an NHL caliber player anymore, and I think there’s a reasonable chance that I could beat him in a footrace.  I don’t think Pyatt’s struggles were for lack of effort – he was one of the team’s more willing players to engage along the boards and at least knows what he should be doing, he just can’t execute.  Speed is Pyatt’s greatest weakness, but in general the game has passed him by.

Grade: D

Dominic Moore

All things considered, it’s impressive that Moore has returned to full-time NHL duty this year.  He’s had a lot of personal stuff to overcome, yet Moore is back playing in the best league in the world, and playing close to his old level.  Moore has contributed next to nothing offensively, but he’s been pretty reliable in his own zone and has added a bit more speed to the bottom line than the Rangers have had in the past with the likes of Boyle and Pyatt.  The team is clearly best off with three set scoring lines and Moore, Boyle and Dorsett as the bottom trio, and as long as Moore has been kept in that role, he’s been OK.

Grade: C

Carl Hagelin

It seems a little surprising that Hagelin actually ranks second on the team in goals after missing the first month of the season recovering from an injured shoulder.  His first two weeks back in the lineup were his best of the season, as Hagelin was chipping in on the scoreboard and tilting the ice the way he did last year.  Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of that out of #62 over the last month.  Part of the issue is that Hagelin has been playing recently with less than ideal linemates, but his game had fallen off while playing in the top-six previously.  To me, Hagelin is a player who really needs to play his own game, because he brings such a unique skill set that pigeon-holing him really deteriorates his effectiveness.  John Tortorella understood that, and was more than happy to have his defensemen toss alley-oop passes down the ice for Hagelin to chase down.  So far, it seems like Alain Vigneault hasn’t figured out how to best harness Hagelin’s abilities.  To be fair though, I don’t think Hagelin’s up-and-down season is all on the coach.  Hagelin has certainly been one of the players that shows up some nights, and is just along for the ride on others.

Grade: C+

Derrick Brassard

Like Pouliot, Brassard had a very underwhelming season until a few weeks ago.  But when he’s playing like he has recently, it’s clear as day how important Brassard can be to the lineup.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we knew about Brassard when he came over from Columbus.  He has all the ability in the world, but goes through absurd dry spells and hot streaks throughout the course of the year.  The Rangers need much, much more consistency from Brassard, but he’s proven to be a valuable offensive weapon at times.

Grade: B-

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  • Boyle is under appreciated, and given he had a 20 goal season, skating with his bud Prusty, everyone demands that type of year again. Folks, he won’t score another 20 goals over the next 5 seasons, but I want him for what he does best, PK, very good defensive forward. Why did the Canadian’s fans love Bob Gainey for so many years, he did what Boyle is doing!

    Pouliot is not a keeper, for the very reason mentioned, inconsistant!! He’s hot now, lets see two weeks from now!!!!!

    When Dorsett arrived we were told that we would love the guy when healthy, well they were right. He gives his all, can’t honestly say that for all the rest of the players!!!

    Miller is still only 20 years old, and getting better. Given the yo-yo treatment he’s been given, I think he is a valuable player, and would hope he stays, and they dump Pyatt, and D Moore for that matter!!

    With Hags speed alone, he has managed to be 2nd on the team in goals! He is a great forechecker, enough said there, the kid is a wonderful assit!!

    Your assesment of Brass is spot on, wish he was more like Hags, who shows up every game, as does Callie.

    Your grades were fair to all, nice write up.

    Happy New Year to everyone on the BSB!!!!!!!!!

    • I’m sorry Walt but comparing Boyle to Gainey is absurd. Gainey was 15X better than Boyle will ever be.

      • Boyle does his job. How can you not like Boyle. He plays 44.2% of the Rangers total PK ice time. Starts 51.5% of his shifts in the DZ at even strength. Boyle plays some real tough mins every game and gets the job done more than not. He is trusted by the coaching staff defensively. I’d love for him to score more but he doesn’t so let it be. Without Boyle the Rangers would have lost a few more 1 goal games.

      • I didn’t say he was as good as Gainey, I said that he does what Gainey did. Bob Gainey was terrific, but he also had a great team around him, and for most of his career he skated with Guy Carbineau, who should be a hall of famer in his own right! I agree, Gainey was great, but Boyle’s job is the same as his!! Have a great day!!

        • Sorry to disagree but Boyle doesn’t come close to doing what Gainey could do. Gainey was an elite skater who could play either end of the ice at an elite level. Boyle is strictly a one dimensional player and he lacks the speed of a Gainey. Gainey was the reason we lost in the finals in 1979 to the Canadians. He was the best player on the ice. Boyle is OK in my books but this adulation he gets here is WAY overblown.

          • OK you win.

            Boyle’s job is to kill penalties, and be a defensive forward, which for all practical purposes was Gainey’s job as well, but without the scoring touch. He, and Guy could kill penalties like nobody else ever did together.

            We all know that Boyle has lead in his skates, and is not as gifted a scorer, but that isn’t his role on this team, and that is the point I was trying to make. I said that I wasn’t trying to say he was as good as Gainey, and I’ll say it again, he isn’t, but for his role with this team, he is effective.

            If you disagree with that, so be it, we will agree to disagree. Again, have a great day!!

          • I agree 100%. Boyle is a defensive forward that skates on cinder blocks. He is probably our best face off guy and kills 44% of the Rangers total Penalty mins. That’s a huge burdon and Boyle takes it in stride and does his JOB. you could make the arguement better than any other Ranger player.

    • Bob Gainey is in the HOF! He won the Connie! He is a “top 100” on The Hockey News’ all-time list!
      I think Canadien fans had a few more reasons to love Bob Gainey than we do Brian Boyle!

      • no arguement there!!

        The point I was trying to make is Boyle is good at what he does, and why he is on this team. He will never be a HOFer, but don’t say the man isn’t valueable to this organization!!

        • Pay no mind. You’re right about Boyle. Too many fans get on him for lack of offense when that’s not his job.

  • Good morning and Happy New Year to all! Overall, I think your grading has been very good; not just bottom 6 forwards but everything we’ve seen so far.

    Regarding JT Miller, though (or, “TJ” as AV calls him), if he is “way too good for the AHL *which I agree with), why would you prefer he stay in the AHL the rest of season? Wouldn’t that be as likely to stunt his growth as it is to enhance it?

    Wouldn’t playing 3rd line rest of season be the optimal answer to solve the difficult spot he has been in this season?

    Let’s face it: this team is not making a deep playoff run this season, and may not make the playoffs. Wouldn’t it be best to invest in a rookie that our coaching staff believes will be a 2nd line center in future years? Take our lumps in this ineffective season and set this kid up for quality success next season?


    • Good question. Personally, I prefer that style of player development, where a player can dominate for a lengthy stretch at one level before stepping up, so he enters with sky high confidence. That, and I think the Hftd coaches do a great job and can still teach Miller plenty so that he’s more prepared for the jump. Learning on the fly is fine for a team like Florida, but the mistakes aren’t as tolerable for a team fighting for its playoff life.

    • Tampa Bay is having success with seven rookies in the lineup. I think we can take a chance with one or two.

  • I have inside information telling me that Brassard is in fact really Erik Christensen.
    B – …. I say “D”.

    • Remember that grade the next time Boyle is in the penalty box. I think every time he was the Rangers failed to kill off the penalty. Hagelin has been way too inconsistent. He is all over sometimes and transparent others. In OT last night he had a breakaway but he gave up the puck. He has to be better.

  • Boyle, Moore, Dorsett, Pyatt, Miller are to one dimensional players (I know Miller who I like, is young with potential to score). Granted, though these defensive, faceoff, hustling players are needed and important for the balance of a team,but they still must have some offensive ability to score 10-20 goals a year on top of their other roles. The really good teams have these type players who usually can also occasionally put the puck in the net and are somewhat of a threat. To many of these type role players that can’t score hurt a team in the long run instead of helping it. These type of players can usually be easily replaced since there are an abundance of theses type of players in the league and in the minors. The Ranger role players on the team now, are totally inept when it comes to offence which hurts; as well as most of the Ranger defensemen, McDonaugh excluded, he rocks!

    • Couldn’t agree with you more. Remember our losses to the Devs & Bruins in the playoffs. Their 4th lines positively killed us because guys like Carter & Paille can put the puck in the net. I think Dorsett can score & I like him as much as Prust but Dom Moore(whom I love) & Boyle contribute Nada offensively. There is this mythology that 4th liners should be defensive players but I think they need to have speed and they need to be able to chip in with a few goals.

      • Boyle almost single handedly beat Ottawa in the first round, 2012. He’s a playoff player who contributes when it counts most.

      • You totally proved my point. Those 4th liners killed us because they had offensive skills. That is what makes the Ranger a good team and not a great team!

  • Good job on the ratings although a little generous with Derek Dorsett. I like his moxie and he has done a credible job not taking dumb penalties. His defensive play has improved but still needs to be a bit better. I agree he has the tools to contribute more offensively but until he does then C plus.

  • The sun is setting on Taylor Pyatts’ hockey career, but he has always been a class act. He deserves a stick tap.

  • Good points and assessments. For my two cents, ratings A, B ,C etc are subjective especially when we try to find a difference between a C and B-, Teams rate on depth chart, players 1-5, 6-9 etc Boyle is no Gainey but he is what he is at the bottom of the depth chart maybe 11th or 12 (FWDS) but gives you PK and faceoffs. If your looking for him as a third line guy scoring or pounding someone you’ll be disappointed. Moore and Dorsett also at the bottom of the depth chart but also bring value to their roles in that spot. Lets not lose sight of grouping our guys compared to our guys. The problem is not the bottom of the depth chart or their roles and what they can bring to the table. Look at the top 6-7 fwds and if you want to be fair their ABC’s are no better then what was rated with the bottom guys.

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